Last Poet Standing

The Signature hosts slam poetry competition at the Loft Theatre

By Katie Christoff

Photo: Improv artist Renee Dion performs during The Signature’s 2014 Season; photo: Lucy Owens

Ten years ago, The Signature instituted a new type of competition poetry in Dayton. Now they’re paying homage to their roots by hosting their first Last Poet Standing competition.

The competition, which will be held on Friday, Dec. 5 at the Loft Theatre, will consist of three rounds with a panel of judges narrowing down the participants each round. Attendees can watch as local slam poets compete for the grand prize of $1,000.

“In honor of ten years, we thought, why not celebrate our roots?” Lucy Owens, creator of The Signature, said. Owens is known as Sierra Leone in the slam poetry community.

“Unorthodox poetry competitions are the very thing that gave us the platform to be where we are now,” she said.

The Last Poet Standing competition will be the culminating event of The Signature’s 2014 season. It invites any spoken word poets to participate, but they’d better be prepared to compete with the spoken word poets who have gained notoriety in Dayton, thanks to The Signature’s events.

“The Signature’s audience members, our core constituency, are sticklers for good talent,” Owens said. “So you better be prepared!”

Those entering will be asked to prepare four poems for the competition. Owens said they were supposed to send in a tape as a formality, but she’s already pretty familiar with the poets in the region.

“I would say I know 90 percent of the poets within the region, so if we know you and have seen work you’re in, we’d welcome you to enter,” she said. “You just need to have been performing somewhere before.”

Owens said The Signature is working on creating new and unique twists to each round of the Last Poet Standing completion, and the third round will allow the use of props during the performance.

Poet, writer and motivational speaker “Just Greg” Corbin will serve as a celebrity emcee and host of the event. He comes from Philadelphia, has been featured on HBO’s Brave New Voices and has appeared on CNN and BET. He was also named one of Philadelphia’s Most Influential by the Philadelphia Tribune.

The concept of Last Poet Standing began ten years ago when Owens moved to the Dayton area from Toledo and wanted to give poets the opportunity to make money for performing their art. Owens was a full-time poet herself at the time, and she was enrolled in Wright State University.

“From there I connected with cultural standards that opened the gateway for me to provide poets with the opportunity to perform and get paid,” Owens said. “WSU hosted us, and we hosted events that were unorthodox poetry competitions. They weren’t part of the slam community, because we wanted to allow artists to make money.”

Owens said these events were unorthodox because they didn’t follow the rules of the traditional slam poetry community, and instead, they set the rules the way they wanted to.

“No one in the area was doing anything like this.” Owens said. They started out by awarding a cash prize of $500. She’s excited The Signature is finally financially stable enough to offer a $1,000 cash prize for the Last Poet Standing Competition.

“We’ve always wanted to host Last Poet Standing but didn’t have the financial support,” Owens said. “That’s pretty heavy. It’s always something we’ve wanted to do, and $1,000 is a lot for anyone to win.”

The Signature is glad to have the opportunity to give back to the poetry community by offering such a large cash prize, because it’s difficult for these kind of poetry artists to earn money.

In addition to the money, The Signature hopes this competition will offer great national exposure to participants.

“For us, it’s about paying homage,” Owens said. “People aren’t doing this in theatres, so its wonderful exposure for the artists who sign up. It gives participants the opportunity to say, ‘I performed at the Loft Theatre,’ whether they won or not.”

She said it’s a special experience to perform in such a large theatre because slam poetry is typically performed in smaller settings like coffee houses or bars.

“I’m not dodging those places because we all have roots there, but this raises the bar,” Owens said.

The event is open to the public, and she encourages people unfamiliar with slam poetry to come check it out.

“We welcome anyone who hasn’t experienced competition poetry in this form, loves to be entertained and enjoys experiencing artists from all walks of life,” she said.

She added that the unpredictable nature of slam poetry makes it more exciting.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Owens said. “As a producer, I can’t even tell you what will happen. It’s going to be really fun to see how this goes.”

The Signature’s Last Poet Standing will be held on Friday, Dec. 5 at the Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St. in Dayton, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. For tickets and more information, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Christoff at

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